Swiss Versus Conventional CNC Machining

Swiss CNC machines were originally developed to produce the high precision parts used by the famous Swiss watch industry.  While often associated with high volume production and costly tooling charges, in fact they are an excellent solution for long run high precision machining work.

The machined part in this image is suitable for both conventional and Swiss machining. Our machines can handle parts not smaller than this one, at roughly 0.81 in diameter and 2.75 inches long.   The volume of the part is low —50 pieces per month.  A part like this would typically be source machined on conventional CNC machines.  Let’s review the part itself, processed through conventional CNC machines, processed in a Swiss-style CNC, and re-imagine the potential cost reduction and quality improvements of low volume Swiss-style CNC machining.

It contains a variety of machining operations needed to complete.  It requires turning operations to reduce the diameter and create the threads on one side.  It will need milling to create the cross holes and hexagon pattern above the outer threads.    While the part envelope and features make it a candidate for a swiss-style CNC, the lower volume may guide one towards conventional CNC machines.

Let us imagine a manufacturer with a standard CNC lathes/turning centers and a four-axis CNC machining center as it could consolidate both the turning and milling operations into one set up making for efficient conventional CNC machining.  The raw bar would need to be cut to either part length.  It is possible that a manufacturer has a bar feed system on their CNC lathe and would feed through the chuck.  Most likely the bar would still need to be cut to fit the feeder and have bar ends not able to be pushed or pulled through the chuck.  A second turning operation in the same lathe or another would be required to complete the part.  The part would then go to the 4 axis machining center to mill the hex and drill the cross holes.  In summary, to produce the part would require a saw operation and two setups on a CNC lathe, and the set up of a 4 axis CNC machining center.  If the manufacturer had older technologies for their CNCs, the number of machines, setups, and fix turning required would increase as well as costs.

A Swiss machine is physically smaller than a conventional CNC machine as they were developed to produce smaller parts.  They also can machine on multiple axis.  Macfab has up to 9 axis Swiss-style CNCs.  In place of chucks, they utilize guide bushings and collet systems allowing for high speeds and lower runout parts.  A Swiss machine with guide bushings works by advancing the part out as turning and milling parts are machined; however, the part runout is directly affected by the runout of the bar material.  As a result, bar stock should be centerless ground. Newer Swiss machines also can switch to a collet system and can use standard bar material with much better control over part runout.  The collet systems are typically for shorter parts, whereas the traditional guide bushing machines are capable of running parts up to 24” long with slightly more efficient cycle times.

This animated part could be completed in one setup and a single fluid operation, whereas If the same part is made in a conventional CNC, it would present challenges with the orientation of the cross holes to the hex at an angle.  Furthermore, the number of cross holes drilled is an odd number making the angular alinement to the hex even more critical.

As Swiss machines are designed for high volume production, bar feeding integrated, and with less scrap as all operations are done in the same setup.  The collet design has high part rotation speeds for shorter cycle times with improved accuracy.  As the Swiss machine produces the hex, the machine can quickly establish the orientation of the cross holes without additional fixturing or probing time.  Macfab’s investment in virtual manufacturing allows for offline programming of our Swiss CNCs making them an economical option for lower volume precision parts.

Can you imagine your lower volume parts being made on a Swiss-style CNC?  Let Macfab’s creative engineers turn these visions into shorter lead times, lower part cost, and higher quality.


The Macfab Experience – Solving Manufacturing Challenges

As a senior level purchasing manager the selection of the right precision CNC machine shop for your requirements can mean the difference between a high stress job and a high stress job with long sleepless nights.

Across industries such as medical, security and defense, supply chains became brittle during the pandemic. Many purchasing managers witnessed a breakdown in supply chain interdependencies as a global pandemic swept across the globe. The pandemic wreaked havoc and caused a domino impact on each of the links in the manufacturing chain, causing delivery delays, increasing costs and uncertainty. Being a purchasing manager can be an extremely stressful job these days.

We watched a major global disruption break down the existing channels of goods and information. We have experienced the return of clients after experiencing these challenges with other vendors. This pandemic has left no industry untouched! We have helped our customers avoid shortages, meet delivery commitment timelines, and manage their production budgets during the uncertainties of the pandemic.  We continue to help them avoid the troublesome spikes in materials costs, including those that are coming in the near future.

Our team understands the complexities that our customers must navigate.  The Macfab Experience for our clients is the peace of mind that comes with a partner that delivers powerful turnkey solutions in high precision end to end CNC manufacturing applications.

We handle complicated components to support a range of industries, including complex medical, security, defense and aerospace programs globally.  The Macfab Experience enables our customers to protect and strengthen their competitive edge in an increasingly complex global business environment.

As a leader in precision CNC machining services for over 35 years, what are the essential components that set us apart from our competition?


Our manufacturing engineers develop parts to meet your design specs at a competitive price to deliver both quality and reliability. From design prototyping to final production, we specialize in sophisticated jobs requiring tight tolerances and complex geometries.

Our CMM equipment allows the measurement of surfaces that would otherwise be unreachable. Traditional CMM technology uses touch probes and is combined today with other measurement technology including laser, video or white light sensors to provide multi-sensor measurement. Our investment in CMM equipment delivers the precision and accuracy required by our customers.

Our full-service quality control lab can measure your valuable parts. And, we are one of the rare machine shops with a cleanroom. Our components can go directly from our shop floor to our customer’s assembly line saving time and money as a result.

With multiple Swiss turn-style machines on premise, we can take on high volume precision machining jobs.

We are an ISO 9001 certified company, also possessing experience in ICPMS, ICP and IMS standards required in trace detection.

Our customers are global leaders in solving life-threatening health, security and defense challenges. The Macfab Value Proposition is built around offering high precision CNC machining and a range of ancillary services. We  can deliver fully finished parts that are used in demanding areas such as virus detection, environmental studies, detection of explosives and narcotics, and other mission critical tasks with absolutely no room for error.


When a plant shutdown occurs due to the late delivery of parts, an unreliable supplier, or poor product quality, purchasing managers look for accountability. Daily we read news about plant shutdowns across China, including reverberations from the early days of the pandemic. These steep unexpected hikes in costs are huge risks for purchasing managers when they are pressured to make such important decisions based on low price. Low price today is a reflection of incomplete costing and guarantees much higher unplanned costs down the road. What is the cost of a lost reputation?

The lesson we are learning in this global marketplace is that higher-cost parts upfront translate into higher measurable quality, greater value and lower overall project costs. We mitigate the downstream risk in the manufacturing process to protect your reputation, your market share and your bottom-line financial performance.

Macfab has built its reputation on quality not only in the highest precision machining services but in offering complete manufacturing solutions for our clients.


We are one of the largest machine shops in North America, boasting over 50 CNC machines and over $3 million invested in new machines and technology.

We align value and quality with a 360 degree approach to high precision CNC machining including assembly, cleanroom assembly, micro assembly, mirror polishing, brazing, plating, lapping, leak testing and off-gas testing. In addition to inventory management, we offer a comprehensive and integrated inspection and reporting system.

We are a full end to end manufacturing solutions provider, delivering parts that are cleaned, tested and packaged ready to go directly to your assembly line.  Alongside our technical insight, we also provide a whole suite of value-added services such as Kanban inventory management, managing manufacturing efficiency, and streamlining your supply chain.


The Challenges of Rapid Prototyping

Rapid prototyping is a great way to get a preliminary tactile design of the final product. It enables you to visualize your product before you start manufacturing at scale. As the name suggests, rapid prototyping is the fast fabrication of a product with the help of a three-dimensional computer-aided design (CAD).

While planning for the final product, you can quickly fabricate a part or even an assembly that goes into the final piece. There are primarily two types of rapid prototyping techniques – additive (3D printing) or subtractive (CNC machining) methods of manufacturing.

Rapid prototyping gives you an immense advantage by giving you the opportunity to understand how your product will perform much earlier in the manufacturing cycle. Consequently, this gives you enough time to tweak the design and implement improvements before final production.

Depending on the manufacturing process you opt for, it is also cost-effective and does not need a lot of staff to manage. Moreover, since rapid prototyping is based on computer-aided design (CAD), human error and budget overruns are minimal.

In a world of cross-border manufacturing and shortening product development, conceptualizing products early on in the product development cycle is absolutely vital to your success. Rapid prototyping can not only help you reduce manufacturing risks but also keep the competition at bay.

That being said, rapid prototyping comes with its own set of unique challenges as well. There are multiple factors that come into play when considering a rapid prototyping method – purpose, cost, complexity, quantity, and quality have a significant impact on prototyping success.

Let’s look at some of the challenges of rapid prototyping –


Rapid prototyping is an excellent way to get a proof of concept. However, it won’t give you an accurate representation of the final product’s feel, finish, color, or texture. When it comes to 3D printing, the material options are limited as well. Moreover, some materials require thorough understanding to ensure safety and quality.

At Macfab, we are experts at both additive and subtractive rapid prototyping techniques. We’ve got high-precision CNC Turning and Milling services that let us solve a variety of material limitations.


Rapid prototyping technology equipment can be costly, especially if you are looking for highly specialized prototyping machines. The cost also increases with each iteration of the prototype, which can impact the budget of your product development cycle.

While rapid prototyping will save you costs in the long run, be ready for a higher capital expenditure initially as you iron out faults and optimize the design.


Finding the right talent with diverse knowledge and experience in rapid prototyping is a challenging task. The right person needs to have the knowledge of materials, tools, programming, project management, and product development.

Mix into that the complexity of an internationalized manufacturing supply chain and compressed timelines, and you can easily understand why finding the right talent is essential.

We take talent seriously at Macfab and have an expertly staffed team of 3D printing and CNC machinists. With decades of experience managing highly complex manufacturing tasks, be assured that you are in safe hands when you choose to work with us.


As mentioned earlier, rapid prototyping might not necessarily be 100% accurate. The molded parts and molding processes need to be improved in order to improve accuracy.

Accuracy is paramount in the case of specific rapid prototyping techniques such as stereolithography or SLA. SLA rapid prototyping can create medical grade and high precision rapid prototypes.


Even though rapid prototyping is done using computer-aided design, the variety of software and file formats can bring in unnecessary complexity. Some software has persistent data loss issues due to the nature of the file format, which can result in poor surface quality. This is an area that still needs improvement.

The challenges of rapid prototyping are very little compared to the benefits that it offers.

Our craftsman machinists take a fool-proof approach towards prototyping. Our Engineering group creates a Design for Manufacturing (DFM) to clarify any unknowns before beginning production. Along with the DFM, our experts also review your 3-dimensional CAD file or 2-dimensional drawing, collaborating with you throughout the process, ensuring you get the part as you envisioned it. The process model and drawings are then developed in Solidworks, an industry-leading CAD software.

Our 3D printing equipment is able to produce parts in both metals and polymers. To provide a more comprehensive offering, we also integrate our conventional machines to finish the 3D printed parts and improve the surface finish.  This integration works great for our customers who need timely production of concept parts for physical reviews and assembly analysis.

Any part that you imagine, we can most likely deliver. With travels up to 40 inches in the X-axis, 20 inches in the Y-axis, and 20 inches in the Z-axis, our CNC machining centers can create a wide range of part sizes. From a coffee table to the rim of an automobile, it is all possible at Macfab!

And since we offer a whole suite of prototyping and production services, customers can also validate the program operation by operation, owing to our industry-leading first part yield percentage. Once the part is produced either by additive (3D printing) or conventional machining, our Coordinate Measurement Machines are ready to kick into service. Using Solidworks, we can also inspect the part for any deviations and make sure it is created to the original specification.

We obsess about quality at every step of the process so that you don’t have to worry about it when the part goes into final production.

We, at Macfab, are there for you through the complete journey of your part, from prototyping your concept to reality, to being there with our precision manufacturing services to manufacture production volumes when ready.

At Macfab, we look at your manufacturing orders from a holistic lens of budget, time, and materials. With our end-to-end capabilities of prototyping to production, we are prepared to support you throughout your production journey. Do drop us a message, and our team would love to get in touch with you to learn how we can help your business succeed.

You might also enjoy: Solving Industry Challenges with CNC Prototyping

Ben Machine Products Aquires Macfab Manufacturing

We are proud to announce Macfab Manufacturing Inc. has joined the Ben Machine Products family.

Backed by over 35 years of experience, Macfab Manufacturing Inc. will continue to offer precision manufacturing expertise to its broad range of customers in the life sciences, defence, aerospace, environmental and power generation industries.

Ben Machine Products is the ideal partner for Macfab Manufacturing with synergies that will benefit all our customers. Our combined machining capacity will include a total of more than 100 advanced CNC machines, almost 200 employees and more than 100,000 square feet of production floor space. We are excited about what the future will bring.

As part of the EIC group, Macfab Manufacturing and Ben Machine will continue to operate independently and collaboratively serving our customers’ requirements with no disruption, offering additional capabilities and capacity with the significant backing and resources of the parent company EIC of Winnipeg, Manitoba.

To learn more about Macfab Manufacturing, please visit us at

To learn more about Ben Machine Products, please visit us at

To learn more about EIC, please visit us at

Top Advice To Finding Your Best Precision Manufacturing Partner

Building high-quality, precision manufactured goods require a partner you can trust, who has the credentials and the level of expertise and experience to provide you with quality finished products or equipment.

How do you choose the best in a market full of supposedly good quality precision manufacturers? Moreover, how do you even evaluate whether a precision manufacturer will meet your needs or not?

Choosing the right partner is paramount, as that’ll potentially affect everything in your supply chain. Let’s look into how you can make the right decision when searching for a great precision manufacturing partner.

1. Tools Of The Trade

Precision manufacturing needs highly specialized tools and equipment. As technology and requirements keep changing, the equipment needs to be upgraded as well. A CNC expert would know the equipment best practices as well as when it needs to be upgraded.

Take into account the equipment the CNC team currently has and its level of upkeep. You’d want your partner to be an expert in CNC machines to get the best results. They should also be vetted for the machinery that they’re using.

An ISO 9001:2015 certification is a good proxy for quality and a commitment towards the latest CNC technology.

Non-machining experts could find the technical details a bit overwhelming, but the right precision manufacturing partner will bring in efficiency and quality with the use of their equipment and its good maintenance.

You should also be aware of what you need. A five-axis CNC machine cannot and must not be replaced by a three-axis one. Check out the machine roster on the company website to ensure they have what you need.

2. Skills and Expertise

A precision manufacturing partner that you choose should not only have the best machinery but also a highly experienced team to operate the equipment.

A good CNC team will need more than just theoretical knowledge and programming skills; they should be well versed in machine behaviour and have a deep understanding of its intended design.

There is no substitute for experience, and in-depth precision manufacturing experience is only built over the years. A highly experienced CNC manufacturing partner will provide high reliability, product commitment and have a reputation to uphold in terms of customer service.

They will also provide invaluable experience in terms of optimizing your component design, which can save money, from material to selection production.

This can’t be said enough but a CNC manufacturing partner must know their equipment, materials, the industry and your business. Do your research to make sure that they have an experienced team with the proper credentials.

The right team will offer design support and engineering suggestions on the production to reduce costs and potentially increase yields. It is necessary to understand the full capabilities of the machining team.

Some questions you want to answer are –

  • Can the company work with the materials you have in mind?
  • What techniques do they implement?
  • What are the tolerances and outputs they can achieve?

You also need to know whether the company has experience in your industry (e.g., automotive, defence, medical, electronics, or optical)

The last thing you want to hear from a precision machining partner is about yield and quality issues. An experienced partner can do better capacity planning, and you will know your project is safe in the hands of skilled machinists.

3. Communication is Key

We’ve gone past the times where finding a precision manufacturing partner involved going through phonebooks, making calls, and meticulously collecting cost estimates.

In the internet age, communication has become speedier, and just a click away. Nonetheless, finding the right CNC expert can still be cumbersome. And one of the ways to separate good precision machine shops from the best ones is through communication.

The company should have clear contact information on their website with their location, phone number, and email address. A prompt reply to your email means that the company is well-staffed and prioritizes customer queries.

While communicating with external stakeholders (customers etc.) is essential, a good precision manufacturer will also have stellar systems of internal communication. A collaborative team with high energy and the right skills can make your project run on time and within your budget.

This means having reliable systems to track the project, collaborate, schedule, run and improve processes.

In an ever-changing environment where events in one part of the world can quickly have a ripple effect across your supply chain, you need to be sure that your precision manufacturing partner will have quick, transparent, and clear communication with you.

4. Scale and Additional Services

While having a precision machining partner that can do their core job very well is excellent, it’s not a bad thing if they have a more well-rounded repertoire of services. A precision manufacturer that offers additional services can take a lot of burden off your shoulders.

These additional services can be –

All these additional services can save you a lot of time in the long run.

Also, look out for the scale of operations and breadth of customers. An international customer base would mean that the company is very well equipped to manage global supply chains.

An international customer base also implies that the company has a machine shop that operates at scale and would be flexible towards your needs, no matter the complexity of your manufacturing job.

There’s a lot that goes into finding the right precision manufacturing partner. Be mindful that the partner you choose should adapt to your needs and bring in the right level of expertise.

If you’re looking for a precision manufacturing partner, look no further than Macfab! We’ve always delivered excellence to our customers owing to our experienced employees, engineering acumen, and diverse experience across industries.